12 Days of Health at Emerson Elementary: Challenging ourselves to a healthy holiday season!

This piece by Abby Temple was published on 12/30/14 on Apple Corps, the Blog. As a Nutrition Educator with Solid Ground’s Apple Corps program, Abby supports nutrition and physical activity programs at Emerson Elementary School in South Seattle.

The Emerson Health and Wellness team sat in our monthly meeting, envisioning the cupcake, candy and cookie-filled weeks ahead of us. Holiday celebrations present a dilemma for a nutrition/health educator based in an elementary school – how can we encourage our students to make healthy choices while also recognizing the need for celebrations, for special treats, and for a fun ending to a difficult few months of work?

How can we stray from labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” and instead, focus on moderation and “sometimes” foods? With these goals in mind, our team – composed of myself, my co-educator Ms. Paula, a second grade teacher, our PE teacher and one of our ELL (English Language Learners) teachers – came up with the idea of a “12 Days of Health” promotion for the school. For the 12 days leading up to winter break, our students were given a challenge each day over the morning announcements.

Alivia, an energetic 2nd grader at Emerson, takes the jumping jack challenge!

Alivia, an energetic 2nd grader at Emerson, takes the jumping jack challenge!

The challenges were as follows:

  • Day 1: One special treat for working so hard!
  • Day 2: Two push-ups!
  • Day 3: Three laps around the black top!
  • Day 4: Four glasses of water!
  • Day 5: Five minutes of stretching!
  • Day 6: Six toe-touches!
  • Day 7: Seven colors of food in your day!
  • Day 8: Eight squats!
  • Day 9: Nine high-knees!
  • Day 10: Ten jumping jacks!
  • Day 11: Eleven lunges!
  • Day 12: Twelve minutes of dancing!

For 12 days, Emerson’s morning announcements were dominated by the lovely singing voices of our Emerson staff. We took turns on the announcements each day, singing the challenge to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The kids especially loved hearing their PE teacher singing – it was quite a treat in itself.

I was surprised how many students I actually saw participating in and excited about the challenges. Students stopped me in the hallway to show me their jumping jacks and lunges. I heard water described as “the most delicious drink ever!” On day 12, our health challenge culminated in a 12-minute dance party with our first graders. I may have enjoyed the dancing even more than they did.

Our super healthy Emerson students are on a great track to a healthy and fun winter break! Happy winter break, Emerson!

Advertisements

Kids learn how to get healthy & have fun in the kitchen

This school year, Solid Ground’s Apple Corps program will begin using the Cooking Matters for Kids curricula for students attending Concord and Emerson Elementary Schools. This nutrition education will be taught throughout the entire school year by Apple Corps AmeriCorps members serving one-year terms as well as one Solid Ground Nutrition Education Coordinator. Every classroom will receive a weekly 30- to 45-minute hands-on cooking class that promotes nutrition and culturally-relevant healthy cooking.

Curriculum for Cooking Matters for Kids classes includes lessons focusing on colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, smart snacking and even smarter shopping. It also ties in grade-appropriate literacy and geography components of the Washington state Common Core standards to cooking. The program also seeks to serve the whole school through both classroom lessons and school-wide health promotions, such as Healthy Halloween and Healthy Heart (Valentine’s) Day.

One of the first things explained in the Cooking Matters for Kids curriculum myplate_greenis the MyPlate diagram. The diagram emphasizes the amount of each food group you should have on your plate at meal time – from fruits, vegetables and dairy to whole grains and protein. When it comes time to choose the food to put on your plate, some of the tips that are provided in these classes are as practical as freezing bread or fruit before it spoils to use it at a later time.

Another wise shopping tip for kids is that fruits and vegetables at the front of the produce section at the grocery store usually represent what is in season. More often than not, this means it is going to taste more fresh and cost less than other fruits and vegetables. For those who are not yet ingredient-savvy, “brown bread” is not always whole grain. (Anything containing enriched flour, bran or wheat germ is not considered whole grain.) Also, cereals at eye level for kids are usually the ones highest in sugar and are packaged with bright colors and cartoon characters to appeal to children.

The Cooking Matters for Kids lessons take many things into account given the diverse audience that they are designed to teach. For instance, some recipes initially call for certain kitchen gadgets that may not be readily available or affordable for all households, so alternative methods of preparation are given (e.g., instead of using a blender, mash all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon). Some students and their families may have dietary restrictions (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance), so alternate choices are given in those instances as well.

Photo credit: John Bolivar Photography

Photo credit: John Bolivar Photography

As expected, the recipes offered in the workbooks are very “kid-friendly.” If any particular step in a recipe is potentially unsafe and requires adult supervision or assistance, it is notated with a symbol (although safe knife skills are taught as well!). Ingredient substitutions for more exotic or expensive ingredients are also provided for families on a budget.

Other great tips the lessons provide are ways to use up the rest of a recipe that produced a large yield. For example, if there happens to be any leftovers from the Homemade Granola recipe, suggestions for future use are to eat it like cereal, use it to top a fruit salad or mix into yogurt parfaits. Or, if there are leftover rolled oats, one could use them to make oatmeal for breakfast or oatmeal cookies.

There is even a “label lingo” handout that students receive about halfway through the course to guide healthier food choices. Reading the nutritional facts and ingredients on any product is vital to ensuring that what kids put in their bodies is healthy, safe and tasty!

Do you remember cooking a lot as a kid? Did you think about things like nutrition, food groups or sugar content if/when you did cook? Let us know in the comments below!

%d bloggers like this: